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OXFORD PAMPHLETS 

1914-1915 






pHRrsfilAS AND 
THE WAR 



A SERMON 

BY 

T. B, STRONG 

DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD 

Price Twopence net 



OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 
HUMPHREY MILFORD 
LONDON EDINBURGH GLASGOW 
NEW YORK TORONTO MELBOURNE BOMBAY 






The following sermon was preached before the Uni- 
versity in the Cathedral, Christ Church, on Christmas 
Day 1914 by the writer, as Dean of the Cathedral, in 
accordance with custom. 



Walter Clinton Jackson Library 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro 

Special Collections & Rare Books 



World War I Pamphlet Collection 

Gift of Greensboro Public Library 



CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 

\' And the servants of the householder came and said unto 
him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? 
whence then hath it tares ? And he said unto them, 
An enemy hath done this.' — £t. Matthew xiii, 27 and 28 
(part). 

Any one who reads the Bible carefully will not fail, 
I think, to notice two very remarkable points in the view 
of human life which is found there. On the one hand, 
we find a very clear and uncompromising view of sin. 
The characters whose lives we read of there are repre- 
sented as human in this respect, that they are beset 
with temptations, and not infrequently fall. And when 
this happens there is no doubt as to the view which the 
writers take of them. When David commits his great 
sin, for instance, he is frankly condemned ; there is no 
attempt to represent him as appealing from conventional 
^standards to a higher law ; he has just committed murder 
and adultery, and he must repent and face his punish- 
ment, and that is all. So, there are no excuses made 
for St. Peter's denials of our Lord ; he was warned of his 
danger, but he was headstrong and self-confident, and 
fell accordingly. The great figures of Bible history are 
human in this, that they are liable to fall, and when they 
do their excellence in other respects does not mitigate 
judgement : their sin is wicked — just like the sin of any- 



4 CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 

body else. And, on the other hand, the Bible is always 
looking forward, not to progress but to perfection. It 
asks for freedom from sin altogether ; it puts before us 
the picture of an ideal king who will rule God's people 
in righteousness, an ideal Church without spot or 
wrinkle or any such thing. And all this is set out as 
inevitable, as being near at hand, as already started and 
at work, with full knowledge and frankest recognition 
of the actual state of the world. There is never an^^P 
disposition to minimize the evil in the world, or to deny 
the fundamental wickedness of this evil ; or, on the other 
hand, to put up with anything less than absolute per- 
fection. The followers of Christ have to be perfect, as 
their Father in Heaven is perfect. 

Now this contrast between what is and what ought 
to be, which the Bible accepts so frankly, is always 
before us, is a source of much disturbance of mind, not 
unnaturally, to many people, and sets them to work 
trying to explain it. It involves them in discussions of 
the origin of evil, the freedom of the will, the omnipo- 
tence of God, and so on. We do not find any such dis- 
cussions in the Bible. On the contrary, it is always 
implied that if we are perplexed God Himself is not, 
and that His wisdom and providence govern and control 
the whole order of the world, and will know how to dea^k 
with those elements in the world which seem to b^^ 
thwarting His purpose. So when our Lord meets with 
unbelief, it is in this conviction that He rests His con- 
fidence. When the Jews ask murmuringly, ' How can 
a man, whose father and mother we know, come and tell 
us that He has come do^vn from heaven ? ' He is sad, 
but not astonished. God has the whole matter in His 
control, even unbelief ; no man can come to Me, 
He says, unless the Father that sent Me draw him. 



CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 5 

St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians, and St. John in the Revela- 
tion, are prepared to see a tide of evil rising higher than 
ever before, and they do not falter at the vision ; God 
has His hand upon the world and guides it, and He 
knows when and how the power of evil can be met and 
finally crushed. 

The Parable of the Tares, from which my text comes, 
puts this lesson in a most vivid form. It describes for 
'us, if we may say so, the look of the Kingdom of God 
in the world. Our Lord had come preaching the King- 
dom, and He knew that many people expected that 
when the Kingdom came it would come with a great 
convulsion of nature and social life ; the Kmg would 
come and visibly destroy His enemies, banish all evil, 
and produce at a blow times of peace and righteousness. 
And the parable warns us against this expectation. 
The householder has sown good seed, of that there is no 
doubt : but there is a- watchful enemy near who is sure 
to sow tares if he can. So when the servants come and 
tell him that the tares have already begun to appear, 
he is sad but he is not surprised. He knows the work 
of the enemy, and he knows what the result — so harassing 
and perplexing to faith — will necessarily be. It is that 
his field over which he has taken so much pains will 
kbring forth a mixed crop, like fields over which no such 
trouble has been taken. There will be wheat, no doubt, 
but there will also be tares ; people will come and look 
and take note and say that after all it is very like other 
fields, that it is clear that you cannot keep tares out, 
however hard 3'ou try, and that, perhaps, as they seem 
part of the nature of things, they cannot be so mischievous 
after all. 

Our Lord warns us in this parable that the Church 
will look like that in the world ; it will be a mixed 



6 CHKISTMAS AND THE WAR 

thing ; many of the evils which ought to have no place 
in it will be there ; and the world will take note of the 
fact. And it is this that will cause us so much pain and 
try us so hardly. Inside the Church, we can listen to 
the comforting assurance of the householder that the 
mischief, though serious, is not beyond remedy and is 
not permanent ; we can cherish that hope. But it is 
when we hear the comments of the world that we ^L 
understand how serious the mischief is. It weakens^ 
all the witness of the followers of Christ, if it can be said 
with a fair show of reason : ' They are just like everybody 
else ; they talk big, and make large promises ; but 
when you come to look at them all their talk vanishes 
away ; they do not practise what they preach.' 

We cannot, I think, avoid thinking of this lesson 

which Christ teaches us in the Parable of the Tares at 

this present time. For we are in face of a contrast that 

makes, or ought to make, the whole Christian world 

ashamed. To-day we recall the Birth of Christ and all 

that it meant for the world ; how with Him a new force 

came into the life of man, strong enough to deliver 

him from his sins, to break off the chains of bad habit 

that held him from fulfilling his own highest hopes, and 

to bring him again into the favour and blessing of his 

God. This treasure was committed to the keeping ofA 

Christ's followers, and the gift of it was to issue in peace 

throughout the race of men. Quarrelling and tyranny and 

war belonged to the old bad state of things when man 

was at variance with God and had no complete guidance 

for his religion or his moral life. For nineteen hundred 

years this gift has been in the world. It has won great 

triumphs ; individuals and nations have won victories 

in its strength over themselves and their temptations. 

It has had reverses, and the confident joy with which 



CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 7 

the first Christians set out upon their task of spreading 
it through the world is hard to reclaim. And now those 
nations which have the strongest claim to represent 
the effect of the gift and message of Christ in their 
outward life have fallen into a state of war and bitter, 
savage hate. As w^e look back upon the events preceding 
the outbreak, and as the papers get into print from 
various sources that passed among those in whose 
'hands the issue lay, we seem to see how inevitable 
it all was ; but this, even if we know, as we think we 
do, who made it inevitable, does not modify the judge- 
ment we must pass upon the position of Europe at this 
time ; it is profoundly un-Christian ; it does represent 
a failure, on a tragic scale, of peoples professedly 
Christian to live up to their principles. I do not mean 
that we were not right to go to war ; we should have 
failed hardly less completely if we had refused ; it 
would be a grievous and ruinous failure now, if we were 
to shrink from sacrifice, however great and painful, 
which may be necessary to secure triumph for our 
cause. I do not ignore, again, the wonderful feeling 
of unity in our own nation and empire which the call 
to arms has evoked. Still less do I ignore the splendid 
and chivalrous valour with which the young men of 
k England have come forward, sacrificing, in many cases— 
in all cases, postponing — their hopes and prospects in 
the way of useful civil work, and ready to offer their 
lives. I should indeed be unworthy of holding office in 
this House and University if I felt no pride in the spirit 
and temper of those who have gone out from here — - 
and I know that they are but representatives of the 
whole young manhood of this country ; from all dis- 
tricts and classes the story is the same. We do right to 
glory in this ; to face our trials bravely, and to rejoice 



8 CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 

in the justice of our cause. But when all this is said and 
done, there is no help for it ; we must admit that the 
war is profoundly in opposition to the whole message 
of Christmas Day. It is like the tares in the field ; it 
comes from the old mischief of the enemy of mankind. 
It will develop splendid courage and self-control and 
tenderness, and we know that God has His hand upon 
it all and will work His will through it ; but war is not 
the Christian way in which these Christian virtues I 
ought to be developed, nor the way in which God likes 
best to carry out His purpose. 

Now this is, perha23s, one of the most important lessons 
of the Parable of the Tares, that if you want really to 
attain the end which God has in view, you must set about 
it in God's way. The servants came to the householder 
and said, ' Here are all these tares : shall we go and pull 
them up '/ ' That seems the obvious thing to do ; the 
tares have got there through sin and the malice of the 
enemy ; why not pull them up at once ? But that is not 
the householder's way. It is, if we may use modern 
wordsj the way of the pacifist — the peace-at-any-price 
man. He will bring about the millennium by not having 
any war. But that is not the right way, though it seems 
so complete and persuasive ; you must let your tares 
grow with the wheat. The war ought not to be there, > 
but you must fight it out now that you are in it. And 
one of the things it has got to teach us is that there is no 
way of finding peace ' as a real and permanent policy ' 
except the way of Christ Himself. Surely we have 
already learnt out of this war and its circumstances how 
not to attain peace. Various methods have been put 
before us. There was the method of militarism — and it is 
hard to understand how any one ever believed in that. 
The militarist motto is, ' If you want peace, prepare for 



CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 9 

war. Arm yourself to the teeth ; find out by any 
means, high or low, what everybody else is doing ; be 
ready always to anticipate a blow ; make yourself 
feared, so that everybody will be afraid to go to war with 
you.' It is hardly possible to conceive a peace less like 
the peace of God than that which is attained in this way. 
Or, again, it has been said, ' Trust to the financiers. They 
will show you the advantages of trade and commerce, 
the dislocation in these things which comes of war, the 
theoretical impossibility of war, in modern days, when 
nations and their interests are so closely intertwined one 
with another.' This has broken down. In spite of all 
these considerations, here we are with the whole of 
Europe in a blaze. And what is more, commerce not 
only fails to prevent such wars as that we are now engaged 
in, it leads to serious trouble — ^to veiled civil warfare — 
in the various states concerned. Certainly the exchange 
of commodities under the unfettered operation of the 
laws of supply and demand does not produce God's 
peace, or anybody else's peace. And then there is 
education. This, at any rate, ought to keep people sane 
and prevent their being swept by j)assion. Certainly it 
ought ; and certainly there are people whose learning 
leads to a balance of mind and a sense of proportion 
which enable them to think justly on any matter pre- 
sented to them. But you cannot count on education to 
produce this result. Learning sometimes makes people 
querulous and anxious about small points ; sometimes 
it disables them from judging decisively about anything : 
sometimes it enables them to defend theories, with great 
ingenuity and persuasiveness, which no one with an open- 
air knowledge of mankind would believe for a moment. 
So far as sheer weight of book-learning is concerned the 
German professoriate is the most learned body of men in 



10 CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 

the world, but their learning has not, at this present time, 
made for either wisdom or peace. 

All these things — education, commerce, even the power 
and will for self-defence — are things good in themselves 
in different degrees and for different ends. But the 
peace of God will not come through any of them or all 
of them combined. The way of God's peace is the way 
which the Son of God laid down when He became in- 
carnate : He being in the form of God thought it not A 
a thing to be grasped at to be equal with God, but 
emptied Himself and was found in fashion as a man. 
He sought not His own, but made Himself of no account. 
That is the way in which peace on earth will come, and 
the hope is that out of this war we may learn something 
of this and cease to look for peace in the wrong way. 
The war is too big a thing and involves too many nations 
for anjrthing to remain as it was before. We have trusted 
too much, in the past, I am sure, to the wrong things, 
and the result is that till the war shook us all together 
we had class arrayed against class, and all sorts of causes 
of bitterness active amongst us. Whatever we do in the 
field and on the sea, we shall have suffered real defeat 
in this war if we go back into the old conditions and 
resuscitate the old party watchwords and get back into 
the old narrow grooves of useless and interminable con- ^^ 
flict. If, by God's grace and help, the Allies win in theW 
field, we must look forward to a great clearing away of 
old prejudices and cant phrases and delusions, to a more 
frank appeal to the principles of the religion which we 
profess, and to a more trustful attempt to attain God's 
end in His own way. There is no doubt as to what that 
way is ; the story of Christmas Day sets it before us 
beyond the possibility of mistake. The world as we 
know it, and the Church as we know it, is a mixed thing 



CHRISTMAS AND THE WAR 11 

in which the work of the enemy of mankind has found 
entrance, and the only power that can destroy this work 
is the Son of God, who for ns men and for our salvation 
came down, as on this day, from heaven, and was in- 
carnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was 
made man. 



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